Roots and Rain polished but uncohesive album
Toronto-based musician Howard Gladstone describes himself as a “latecomer, climbing to catch up.”
His newest record titled Roots and Rain is an ambitious 13-track disc, and an interesting look into his developing abilities as a songwriter.
Self-described as “North Americana,” Gladstone's style has been heavily inspired through his personal experiences and travels throughout his life — sojourns to India and Greece make themselves known with the presence of the sitar in songs like Khajaraho and the use of mandolin (played by multi-tasking guitarist Tony Quarrington) interspersed throughout the album. Alongside personal experience, Gladstone is a big fan of music. He cites influences such as Bob Dylan, Leadbelly, and Ravi Shankar, as well as forays as a music journalist in his youth. This admiration comes through in his music, which is filled with small homages to his favourites.
His debut album, Sunflowers Light The Room, was released in 2002, and since then Gladstone has released three more albums. How does Roots and Rain measure up to Gladstone's previous endeavours? It's a lot more polished.
Recorded in his home studio in just three days to “maintain looseness and a moment in which the songs could live,” Roots and Rain is a homey and optimistic album with a folk-country style. Topically, the songs Gladstone writes are pretty diverse, running the gambit from social commentary (The Mercy Of The Wind), modern romanticism (Sweet Lies), and the influence of nature (Loon On The Lake).
Possibly the most controversial song and topic touched upon on the album, Tammy — a song about Tammy Marquardt, an Ontario woman who many believe was wrongfully convicted for the death of her son.
Sometimes lyrical and sometimes logical, there is a lot going on in this record and as many of these songs don't relate to one another, it struggles to come off as a cohesive package. Roots and Rain is more like a collection of personal musings. Still, simplistic and thoughtful, this album doesn't seem rushed; it's definitely the product of a contemplative mind. Gladstone's Myspace boasts strange comparisons such as Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, but the controversy and rebellion within those artists doesn't really seem fitting to the meek and mild-mannered type of personality that comes across in his music, and even in his voice. All things considered, this album has its moments, it's honest and it's from the heart, which is more than one can say about a lot of current music polluting the airwaves.
On top of his own musical endeavors Gladstone organizes the yearly Toronto Roots Music Festival www.torontocityroots.com
You can also find his myspace at: myspace.com/howardgladstonemusic.